Networking can be really hard and really intimidating, especially if you identify as an introvert. But even the most outgoing personalities will only truly benefit from networking with measurable goals in mind. You can shake all the hands and exchange all the business cards, but how do you know if your time was truly well spent?
One word: GOALS.
At last month's Working Women Wednesday event, Indiana Farm Bureau agent Dusty Willhite shared some of her personal goals when it comes to connecting and building business relationships. How would these work for you in your attempts at networking?
Goal #1: I will attend X number of networking events.
If getting out of the house is your number one challenge, set a reasonable monthly goal. Maybe it's just one networking event per month, or maybe just one per quarter. Setting and meeting that goal will build confidence and likely inspire you to attend more events the next year. And remember that you don't have to do ALL the things. Networking events come in many shapes and sizes. Find what fits best for your industry AND your personality.
Goal #2: I'm looking to meet people with X, Y, and Z qualities.
Knowing the type of connections you want to make can help you identify the right events to attend and make the most of your time. Are you looking for new employees? What skills and personality traits do they need? Are you searching for a mentor? Where do they spend their time? Are you looking for business partnerships? What type of businesses are a good fit for your brand? Knowing your target audience is key to developing your networking strategy.
Goal #3: I'm going to invite X amount of people to coffee or lunch this month.
Real connection happens post-event. Take the awkward formality out of the equation by following up with a coffee or lunch meeting. This makes space for deeper discussion and allows you to discover more about the other person's values, interests, and challenges. How you can help one another in your business endeavors? This also increases the likelihood that the other person will remember your name as a potential resource in the future.
Goal #4: I'm going to be more social outside of my business hours by talking to X number people.
Some of the best networking happens when you're off the clock and simply going about life. You never know when a conversation with another parent at a soccer game can lead to a business referral down the road. No, this doesn't mean that your pitch your business at your kids' social and athletic events. But simply being yourself and listening to the interests and challenges of others can often lead to opportunity for discussion and an expanded network.
Too often, small business owners approach networking as an afterthought. But what would happen if you adopted the goals mentioned above? What other goals might you set to measure the effectiveness of your connections and relationship-building? I'd love to hear from you in the comments with any words of wisdom or success stories.